What Kind of Leadership is Needed to Move Us Forward Through This Crisis?

The current pandemic should help us become more humble, at least in theory.

Systemically, we have the opportunity to re-think our relationship with our planet. Individually and collectively, we have the opportunity to revisit a question that has driven much inquiry within the humanistic and spiritual traditions.

What does it mean to be human?

Yes, really! 

This is the question that I formally began asking in 1985 when I decided to drop out of professional sports. I did it then because I was no longer motivated to win more trophies or titles. I no longer found purpose in the pursuit of more individual achievement.

Now, 35 years later, I see our planet needs to be asking itself this same question.

Is it really purposeful to focus most if not all of our attention on the pursuit of more, better, and greater? Can we really continue focusing our priorities on making more money, creating more profit, and sacrificing our quality of life by becoming more agile and more productive?

Is it human nature or human degeneration to have created a planet where 1% of its population owns more wealth than the rest?

Is our biggest challenge climate change or is it human degeneration?

How could it be that we have made such incredible progress with our technologies while reaching an old-time high-level of social, economic, relational, and intra-personal conflict and disconnection?

We have become addicted to more, bigger, and better. We have become addicted to winning at any cost. Just like I used to be in my teens as a pro athlete when no amount of wins was ever enough and I lived in perpetual anxiety fearing the ultimate consequence, burn out!

We have become a destructive species and have excused our destructiveness behind Darwinian theories, saying that this is a planet that favors the survival of the fittest.

But the fittest for what?

The fittest for abuse, control, disrespect, arrogance, and lying without getting caught?

Let’s face it once and for all! We have lost our way, our moral compass, our ethical standards.

We have lost our dignity!

Our sense of dignity has been lost to such an extent that even our educational systems (institutional and familial) have defaulted to IQ as the gold standard of human excellence.

Seriously? Yes, seriously! 

Understanding, genuine discovery, and the formation of integrity have been lost in favor of a race toward becoming the greatest memorization machine. For what? Higher grades and more diplomas even if it means becoming another abuser of the greater good of our families and communities?

How long can our overwhelming reductionistic numbness last for?

The time of valuing IQ as our go-to intelligence must come to an end as well. We have incredibly mentally smart people in our world, who obtain great scores in standardized tests and have diplomas from some of the top universities in our world. But there are plenty of intellectually “intelligent” people with prestigious degrees who are contributing more to our problem than to our solution.

More than high IQs, we need people with a high capacity to be generous, loving, patient, humble, and truthful.

But these qualities are not enough by themselves. We need people who can be all of the above while also being capable of taking concrete action in an ethical direction in service to humanity.

IQ is good if it is guided by an open heart. IQ by itself, however, doesn’t inspire or motivate.

So while I deeply value education and scientific research, I am impressed with the egoic patterns of science as well, which often is lead by people who are able to publish research and be featured in the media for their brilliance behind the desk, but who in the privacy of their own homes know full well that they don’t walk their talk (often being paid by private enterprise to support their products so they can become more profitable).

The nature of being human does not live in our cells, tissue, watches, and P/L reports. I’ve found that out in every field I’ve been in and researched, including psychology, medicine, show-business, the performing arts, elite sports, academic research, politics, spirituality, and business. The best of our nature is not recorded in medical labs, monologues, personalities, budgets, hoarding of wealth, or regurgitation of dogmatic intellectual or spiritual practices. 

Instead, our essential nature shows up in our capacity to co-create, to care for our own and others’ well-being, and our courage to speak our truth with strength and humility.

What would it mean to collaborate with each other, not to live and die for more ego achievements, more sales and market share, but for cultivating greater human dignity?

What would it be like to create products and services that increase joy and love instead of fear and conflict?

For company owners, how come it is so difficult to value people at least as much as you value profit? When is enough, enough, for that 1 % of humanity?

Have the courage and answer this fx’ing question, at least to your own self. If you don’t have enough decency to answer it in the midst of so much disproportionate damage, then at least stop bombarding the market with solutions that deepen the crisis.

When is human dignity (what makes us human), going to lead our global sustainability agenda?

When are we going to be lead by an ethical standard that values well-being above the fear-based accumulation of material wealth?

More than environmental sustainability, we need sustainability of leadership based on individual authenticity, relational transparency, and socially conscious strategic design to positively impact the well-being of our planet.

Instead of continuing to offer theoretically elegant frameworks and techniques that promise to make people more success-able, how about focusing on growing our capacity to speak our truth and respectfully listen to others speaking their truth?

Is it possible to increase our human dignity by continuing to value efficiency-driven cultures of accountability? Accountability to what, the pockets of the consultants and business heads at the top of the organizational hierarchy? 

It is IM-possible to nourish human dignity when all kinds of market offers are out there being sold and bought by systems that lack transparency and decency to begin with.

It is time to implement authentic role models of conscious leadership that first and foremost prioritize kind collaboration for the well-being of the people and the environment. After all, this is actually what creates trust in society.

This is radically different from our current popular models (offered by market sharks who dress up as “conscious or evolved consultants and entrepreneurs”) that claim to build growth mindsets and collaborative cultures but that covertly emphasize competitiveness and ego-driven agreements, contracts, business plans, assessments, and accountability methodologies that plant more seeds of abuse, bullying, dishonesty, and survival of more fear.

The truly courageous are NOT those who have earned their so-called leadership through inherited positions in the fraternity membership.

The real courage lives in those human beings who take responsibility (personally and professionally), who show up authentically (speak their truth even when this truth doesn’t earn them recognition or money) and live in integrity for the greater good of the whole (not just themselves).

Living in integrity is not easy because it is not so popular. As Warren Buffet once said, “Only when the tide goes out, do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”

It is easy to hide when one has positional power and is able to manufacture self-serving statistical reports. It is easy to sell garbage when you are selling to a market that has been convinced of needing short-term fixes to solve their scarcity-based mindsets.

But this is what many need to be asking themselves right now. 

How do I recover my own dignity even when it requires me to reveal I was swimming naked? Living in human dignity means taking courageous action. 

This is what I did almost 2 years ago when I decided once and for all to stop working for or with anyone (individual or organization, colleague or client) placing profit and personal gain above the well-being of their work-force, their clients, the people around them, and our planet.

Yes, this meant leaving close to $200K USD on the table and realizing that the short-term financial well-being of myself and my family was going to be in a difficult transition for an uncertain amount of time.

Just as it has been the underlying thread throughout my career, my own dignity was worth way more than feeding into the fear of ‘not-enoughness’ the market continually sells us.

And like me, there are many of us in the world. I’ve met many individuals and some companies in my life who also are unwilling to continue being accomplices in the destruction of our humanity and our planet. These are people who are courageous enough to take action in favor of the greater good, even if it means reducing their own individual benefits.

Also, we must once again, come back to the roots of a community. The “guru” model is obsolete already. If the guru model had been so successful, we would by now have shifted our destructive ways. We must come back to the unit of the community as our guru.

As Polly Berends says, “In the end, you are your own guru – your life is your guru..”

By themselves, individuals haven’t ever created meaningful and sustainable systemic change on their own.

It is also time to let go of our adoration and addiction to material possession. This is destructing our youth.

What good does it do to helicopter our youth to success? As social role models, what good does it do to sell techniques and formulas for getting more followers and more channel subscribers?

I work as a transformation psychologist for accomplished pro athletes and sports coaches. Without exception, all of them eventually reveal to me that no achievement is ever enough. Eventually, the pursuit of more achievements ends up burning them out. I work with them because we need to turn the concept of high-performance upside down and stop popularizing the greater pursuit of individual achievement. For what?

What good does it do to guide the most talented to break records and earn more titles if they don’t get to grow beyond their ego?

Also, for them what is the purpose of more achievements if many of them privately live unhappy and unhealthy lives?

The recovery of human dignity in our planet is dependent on our individual integrity. Just as we’ve managed to block our experts’ messages during this COVID-19 crisis, we have been trained to block our own truth from ourselves.

We must take personal responsibility for unblocking our truth from our own selves so that we can be useful to the well-being of others. Not living in integrity with this calling means accelerating our fear-driven humanity to its ultimate auto-destruction.

COVID – 19 is only another symptom of the pandemic of loss of human dignity. This is the real pandemic we are facing.

Coming together will not be solved by private enterprise alone. More than ever, we need to take individual and collective responsibility for the crisis we’ve managed to create.

The future of our humanity can no longer depend on the world of traditional business to turn this pandemic around. We need a concerted effort from many individuals who are at the top of the wealth hierarchy, from every sector, to take the higher road and take courageous action in alignment with the greater good.

We have an unprecedented opportunity to make a change and build the pillars that can help us become a family once again.

Together we are stronger and can overcome our destructive tendencies. However, we must learn to be responsible and commit to being champions of courage, champions of respect, champions of resilience, champions of generosity, champions of commitment, champions of humility, and champions of human dignity.